Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 12, 2023
December 5, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master.
This passage occurs in Chapter VI, after Hugh Auld orders Sophia Auld to stop Douglass’s reading lessons because he feels education ruins an enslaved person for slavery. This moment represents a minor climax of the first half of the Narrative. Douglass, upon overhearing Hugh Auld’s words, finally realizes that whites hold Black people in their power through a series of strategies—most notably that of depriving Black people of education and literacy. To Douglass, this admission is valuable for two reasons. First, it confirms his fledgling sense that slavery is not a natural or justified form of society, but is rather a constructed power strategy supported by deprivation and dehumanization. In other words, Douglass knows himself not to be naturally inferior, but rather a victim of enforced ignorance. Second, Hugh Auld’s words allow Douglass to realize, through inversion, that he must become educated to become free. This lesson about the value of education is more important than the reading lessons themselves.
This quotation also shows that Douglass associates males and females with different kinds of knowledge. Though Douglass himself was a strong women’s rights advocate in later life, the Narrative depicts Douglass’s path to freedom as a confrontation with and an adoption of male authority. Though Douglass’s self‑education and struggle for freedom question the dominant assumptions about power and race, they implicitly adopt the dominant assumptions about power and gender. For example, Douglass presents his climactic moment of transformation from slave to man—his fight with Covey in Chapter X—as a moment defined by male physical power. In the quotation above, Douglass’s rhetorical structure sets the femaleness of Sophia Auld’s reading lessons as antithetical to Hugh Auld’s larger lesson about Sophia’s lesson. Douglass presents masculine knowledge as knowledge about knowledge, superior to feminine lessons. Douglass aligns himself with Hugh Auld in this equation, both through his dedication to opposing Hugh Auld and through his dedication to obtaining a form of knowledge that he understands to be masculine.